3 ways to maximize your time in front of an audience

Delegates-Listening-To-Speaker-At-Conference_400X240How you perform in the fleeting moments when you have the platform to speak in front of others is pivotal to your chances of success. This is true for every industry, but for anyone in sales, it’s at the very heart of the experience. Getting on stage in front of a crowd of potential customers, contacts, and influencers is the best way to build a reputation and become a credible, respected authority. But for some, it can be a bear pit where bad first impressions are left ingrained in the minds of unforgiving audiences.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In my time working on the sales team of a company dedicated to turning more people into great presenters, I’ve met and seen enough people on stage to learn a few things about how you can seize every chance you get to leave a lasting impression on a crowd.

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

It’s a well-worn cliche (and there are a few more in this paragraph), but it’s the foundation of every positive experience on stage. There may be plenty of people who can use their natural talent and charisma to “wing it” and get away with a decent presentation, but I’ve never seen anyone knock it out of the park without putting in the hard yards first. Know your audience, set your goals, and plan the best way of reaching them. Give yourself time to brainstorm your topic, and then create your content based on what you produce. Simply trying to knock out a presentation right off the bat will most likely result in you losing sight of the bigger picture.

2. People like a good story well told

Do you remember all the details of last year’s fiscal report? How about the bedtime stories your parents read you when you were a kid? Granted those books were probably a lot simpler than your annual sales figures, but the impact of a compelling narrative can stick with you for years. Tell the people the tale behind your numbers and take them on a journey through the key parts of your message. With definitive, logical connections between the elements of your presentation, people will stay engaged during the moments you might otherwise lose them. (See below for an example of making connections in a presentation.)

3. Stand up, stand out

People who regularly give presentations spend a lot of time on stage. But people with money, power, and influence spend a lot more time watching pitch after pitch. If you don’t have something to set you apart from the crowd, you’ve failed. One great way to stand out is with your visuals. Working for Prezi, it goes without saying that I believe you can do a lot more on stage than just stand in front of a bunch of simple slides. You don’t need to be a designer to create something beautiful, but you can make everyone think you went to art school if you keep your visuals simple and relevant.

This piece, by Patrick Wenger of Prezi, originally appeared on the Duct Tape Selling blog. It’s reprinted here with permission. Prezi is a preferred sponsor of the IABC World Conference.

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